Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Teenage icks

There’s an old Italian proverb that goes, ‘Little children, headache; big children, heartache’. Were it ever thus? As my youngest children continue to cavort around the sitting room and launch themselves off my sofa only to dismount with the practiced precision of Olga Korbut, the eldest are going through their own personal demons i.e adolescence.
A friend in America, so concerned that I’m losing the will to live regarding the little darlings, has sent me a book on the very subject, appropriately entitled, ‘Teenproofing’. Already, having only read a couple of chapters, I am hanging my head in shame because Hubby and I are doing it all and I stress, ‘all’, wrong. When our son was caught with a friend hanging out of the friend’s bedroom window having a go with a cigarette recently, Hubby went wild. No shaking of head or the toe curling, “I’m so disappointed” lecture – no this was a complete flip out and by the time I returned home, ever the voice of reason the consequences of my son’s actions meant that sanctions had been fully implemented, ergo, no sleepovers, no computer, no football, no movies, no going out, in fact full on sack cloth and ashes. My son lay on his bed staring at the ceiling wondering what was the point in going on. I was very cross indeed and I certainly didn’t condone him having a drag on a fag but I felt uncomfortable with the level of castigation. My heart was heavy and I sincerely wished that I could down a glass of wine and sneak one of my kid’s ciggies. What wicked, terrible thoughts. Shame on you Alice. Instead, I gnawed at my nails and considered the options that Hubby had left open to us regarding his punishment when the next thing happened and, with four more teenage years to go, the ‘next thing’ will absolutely, very definitely happen. I was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Rifling through the pages of the book what Hubby should have said was and I paraphrase from the child expert’s book, ‘I am going to say just one thing: You will hear adults say they wish they’d never smoked/taken drugs as teenagers but you will never, ever hear an adult express regret that he/she didn’t smoke/do drugs as a teenager. Think about it.”
Of course the upshot is, is that Hubby and I had some serious words to say to each other, the result being that our son’s punishment had to be amended without it seeming as though we had gone soft and yet still showing an united front that we were still disappointed but that, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t the end of the world. Our son responded well to this, was glad of a reprieve and has been the most charming young man ever since. Perhaps a little too charming, given that he has fallen head over heels for a delectable young woman and my concern, my nerves and my fervent - ‘don’t rush into anything’ lectures are something he and I will have to endure.
So, where once I went to bed with a hot man and a steamy novel, the man is luke-warm and the book whose sub-title, ‘fostering responsible decision making in your teenager’, is unarguably the least sexy title for any book – so the only steam is coming off my cocoa.
The book is a recent arrival and due to my son’s zealous activities I have yet to unearth advice to give to beautiful young creatures, otherwise known as - girls on the cusp of womanhood. Mother Nature must herself have suffered horribly growing up and thus wants to wreak havoc on every pretty girl so that she too suffers the ignominy of puberty. How else could you explain why young girls with alabaster smooth skin, hair that only needs washing once a week and white, shiny teeth, transmogrify within weeks to moody little madams with blackheads, greasy hair and a ton of metal in their mouths and with attitudes to intimidate the hardiest parents?
Our precious little angel is no exception, although Mother Nature has given ours a break by providing her with the legs of a colt and exquisite skin, nevertheless, she took her place on the orthodontists chair this week and emerged like Ugly Betty, thirty five minutes later. “I’m telling you mum”, she mumbled, clutching her consolation prize of starter pack i.e mouthwash, floss, weird tufty things, toothbrush and wax, “this is hardly my idea of a goody bag and if I find out I need glasses as well, well just keep sharp objects out of my reach.”
Hubby has reacted to the change in his firstborn daughter with his usual demeanor when confronted with issues regarding his family i.e bafflement. His face genuinely seems to struggle with the appropriate expression for fear of what it might belay, which immediately winds me up. I’m either shouting “Don’t you care? It’s not funny you know”, or “Loosing up a little, it’s not the end of the world”. He can’t win.
“So what do we do with her then?” he asked over a bowl of pasta last weekend, one eye on the rugby.
“Give her plenty of affection, boost her confidence and don’t focus on her looks”, I suggested.
“Fantastic! Bloody brilliant!”, I looked up, thrilled that for once he agreed with me wholeheartedly, only to find that England had scored a try.
“Gee great. I thought we were discussing our child’s self esteem”, I said haughtily.
“Of course, of course”, he replied distractedly. I gave up but only for the meantime, for soon Hubby will be as much entrenched with the biorhythms of family life as much as I. There are only three more weekends to go before he returns to the homestead. The Royal Navy may have big plans for him but believe me; mine are bigger, much bigger. Huge.


Yvonne said...

Alice the results will be outstanding and she will be more beautiful than ever - your elder niece had her train tracks for 2 and a half years and look at the results - she is still wearing her retainer at night but the result are perfect.

Remind hubby of his youth - cigarettes etc...........

Lisa said...

Alice- I laugh to think what YOUR plans are for him!
I am NOT looking forward to those years, my eight year old is ALREADY a handful.
I did think while I was reading about the cig 'what punishment will he give out for something worse?' I hope there won't BE anything worse, of course, but being a teenager...
I remember people telling me in my gawky years how lucky I was to be tall, etc,etc. and I never listened, just thought they didn't know anything, so I'm afraid I'm useless there.
(Wow, what helpful comments I have!)

Sally Lomax said...

Full sympathies Alice. I think we do it all wrong too - but then who is to say - really??!!

As for the brace, not one of mine so far has excaped a metal mouth, but ED for one doesn't regret it one bit. Her teeth are gorgeous, and it is sort of a right of passaage for teenagers nowadays it seems.

Glad that Hubby is coming home now .......... ED is now 17 and ESOS 15 and Sensible 13, and I can't honestly say that the last two years have been easy!!

I got it all wrong today too..... Oh well....... We live and learn!

Mopsa said...

Your posts seem to be getting more and more serious Alice Band, reflecting the realities of life I expect.

Alice Band said...

Yvonne - Ah yes, Hubby's youth, another chapter altogether!
Lisa - I'm sure there will be far worse things than a cigarette. I wait with bated breath.
Sally - you know, thank God, how it is.
Mopsa - Do I sound that serious? The content is serious but hopefully it at least sounds funny!

Mary Alice said...

Your column this week was, as usual, brilliant. You have the best way of putting things so that things that should make you cry and tear at your hair, also make you laugh and see the ridiculousness in ordinary life events. You are the best Alice Band.

Teenproofing in bed....this is what passionate sex in earlier years reduces us to in the later years. And the funny thing is, you can warn everyone about it, but no one really believes it until it has actually happened to them. I guess this was the great design, built into our DNA to ensure survival of the species!

Sally Lomax said...

Yes! Exhausting!

Mopsa said...

Of course you are forever funny Alice B - but your undertone seems increasingly serious...perhaps it's due to the end of the summer we never had. Or perhaps it's just me!

Sally Lomax said...

And where are you by the way? My blog misses you!

Mary Alice said...

Yes, what Sally said, I ask too... where are you? I sent you an e-mail and haven't heard from you, you haven't popped by on my blog....where are you Alice Band? I miss you.

Alice Band said...

Sally and Mary Alice,
Sorry guys! I'm here, hale and hearty as ever. My computer is really playing up and on the go slow, so I lose the will to live trying to write messages. It seems to have recovered a little bit. Looking forward to our 11ses Sal x

Sally Lomax said...

It's Tuesday!

Planetbedlam said...

Last week I became the mother of 2 teenage daughters - with 2 more kids waiting in the wings. How scared am I? I might need to buy a Winnebago and move onto the drive. Youngest will need braces, but hopefully not till we are back in Blighty . . . $6,000 out here!And I bet you don't even get the goody bag!!!!!!!